Here’s an issue that takes us down memory lane — raising such questions as when do we begin remembering, how accurate is our memory, and how much are we capable of remembering?
We begin with the Interchange column that appears on page 4, where Beth Dugan, the wife of a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, recalls the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, in Hawaii, where Dugan was living with her family. While Dugan has vivid recollections of certain images associated with that day that “shall live in infamy,” her recollections have to be considered in context: She was not yet three years old at the time.
As Dugan acknowledges, some of what she remembers may be the retelling of incidents by older family members in the ensuing years, and by the reinforcement that the media provided. She recalls hearing the big radio in the living room bring news of the war to her grandfather while she was trying to go to sleep at night. And the family subscribed to Life magazine — with its dramatic photojournalism.
The important thing to note is that she did remember — enough so that until she was a college student she continued to flinch when she heard planes pass overhead. And it was not until 50 years later that she was finally able to make sense of one conflicting memory of the image of the harbor below her family’s house — after her older brother had made a trip to the family home and returned with photographs.
Dugan’s lingering memories of Pearl Harbor make us wonder what the toddlers who were playing in front of the television set on September 11, 2001, will recall from that horrific day. Only time will tell.
Our second memory-related story is on page 36, Linda Arntzenius’s preview of the eight-hour production of “Gatz” coming to McCarter Theater December 15 through 18. As our writer notes, the action of the play revolves around the reading — word for word — of the entire F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, “The Great Gatsby,” all 47,094 words of it.
Even though the actor playing the role of the reader, Scott Shepherd, begins the play with a copy of the novel in his hand, the fact is that he has the entire novel memorized. To prove the point he shuts the book about six hours into the play — a piece of stage business that must certainly get the audience’s attention. In an online interview (gothamist.com) Shepherd explains that “I find it very easy to memorize and very easy to remember because the phrases are so good, you want to be able to repeat that. Like great lines from a movie or lyrics to a catchy song.”
In another online interview (bombsite.com) Shepherd recalled his mother reading “Winnie the Pooh” to him so often that he memorized the first few chapters. “I think this must happen a lot. You read a book to a kid over and over again and before long they know it. I knew where the page turns came.”
Another testament, perhaps, to the enduring power of childhood memories.
U.S. 1 Trivia: What was the profession of Andy Mahaney before he became a CrossFit trainer? Answer next week.